Our mission is to empower innovative
ventures to scale their impact
In today’s rapidly evolving landscape, we face urgent challenges to protect the planet and improve people’s wellbeing. It is within these very challenges that the seeds of innovation are sown, propelling individuals and organizations to push the boundaries of convention by delivering concepts that combine “people, planet, profit”. Although many initiatives exist, only those that scale their innovations will truly make a lasting impact. Scaling isn’t merely about expanding in size, but about effectively navigating market demands, regulatory requirements, and operational intricacies. Scaling requires vision and courage – a combination of insight in what it takes and guts to make the right choices.
We – ScaleUpNation – are on a mission to significantly increase the number of impact-oriented scale-ups, driving a meaningful change in the world. Our focus lies in equipping these pioneering organizations with the resources and tools to transcend the complexities of growth. Through our specialized research insights, we provide them with understanding of what it takes to scale and best practices to do so. Paired with our tailored support, we collaborate closely with these enterprises, offering guidance in refining their strategies, optimizing their operations, and improving their leadership.
ScaleUpNation was founded in 2017 by Menno van Dijk (former senior partner of McKinsey & Company, and co-founder of THNK, School of Creative Leadership) and has been built with strong support from McKinsey & Company, THNK, New Venture, Deloitte, Startup Amsterdam, ECE, ENECO, EFRO, Province of Noord Holland, Rabobank, Food Valley and Goldschmeding Foundation.
ScaleUpNation consists of a diverse, qualified, committed, and experienced team of 15 people with a rich variety of background and nationalities. Backgrounds include top management consulting, corporate innovation, entrepreneurship, business operations, commercialization, leadership coaching, organizational development, research, and AI.
Cracking the code of scaling
We define a scale-up as a venture that is innovative, up to 10 years old, has at least 10 employees, has recurring revenues and has typically raised series A funding. At this stage the venture goes through a transformation from startup to a full-fledged company. The founders need to start managing. The team needs to adopt processes, controls and performance metrics. The company needs to go international and to keep innovating to stay ahead.
Almost all founders enter the high-risk, scale-up phase without prior experience of scaling operations. To give scale-up MTs much-needed insight, we conduct our own empirical, quantitative and qualitative, comparative and predictive research encompassing close to a thousand ventures in the scale-up phase, operating in Europe, USA and Africa. This resulted in our Art of Scaling methodology, which defines the practices that allow young, innovative ventures to scale instead of stall.
Our reports and methods are freely available under creative commons, and we conduct master classes frequently, aiming at disseminating this knowledge far and wide.
The Art of Scaling method and data have been turned into the ScaleUpScan. This is a tool that scale-up MTs can use to understand their performance on each of the scale-up success factors and set their priorities to maximize their chances of scaling. The ScaleUpScan has proven its capability to predict scale-up success. As such, it has also proven very valuable for accelerators, by enabling them to tailor their support to scale-up ventures, as well as for investors, by becoming an integral part of their due diligence process and aiding them in milestone-based financing.
Support that unleashes scaling
ScaleUpNation supports about 10 impact-oriented scale-ups per year, and has been supporting more than 150 ventures to date. These are active in Sustainable Energy, Novel Food, Sustainable Agri, Biomaterials and Circular Economy as well as Healthtech. Reference cases include:
- Fairphone. Unrecycled mobiles generate 45 million tons in mineral waste each year. Fairphone produces mobile phonesthat can be repaired and upgraded, sources fair trade minerals and ensures production takes place in safe, non-toxic and non-exploitative workplaces.
- Protix. Insects are the world’s most efficient upcyclers of organic waste and therefore play a crucial role in the food system. Protix is the international leader in insect-based protein production for petfood and feedstock.
Our support starts with an extensive assessment to define the scale-up priorities for the venture. We then engage on an intensive journey of advisory and coaching with a focus on strategy and business development as well as leadership and organizational development. Support is often linked to raising a next round of financing.
We diligently track the performance of the scale-ups we support versus those we also invited but declined. This shows that we are able to more than double the success of ventures in the scale-up phase. Read our 2022 Impact Report here.
Building the ecosystem
Pulling off a successful transformation from startup to scale-up requires a highly effective supervisory board. Unfortunately, for many scale-ups this is not yet the case. To address this issue, we provide the ScaleUpBoard Program for scale-up board members, typically partners of VC firms, angel investors, corporate portfolio managers and independent board members. This highly rated, highly interactive program addresses the scale-up success factors, helps board members to coach instead of intervene, and be constructive during times of uncertainty and stress. We run three ScaleUpBoard classes per year.
To date, more than 250 individuals have gone through the ScaleUpBoard program. This group is becoming a community of contributors to help impact-oriented scale-ups grow and prosper. We support the community through learning circles and master classes, as well as through our board matching service.
Providing operating partnerships
Venture Capital is evolving as the industry matures. Deal spotting and financial acumen is no longer sufficient. Gone are the days of an undifferentiated investor approach to the same few “perfect” investment cases, an ad hoc response to incoming requests for financing, a strict separation between equity and debt, and a focus on efficiency to stay within a thin management fee.
In this new world, VC investing looks more like the PE model: i.e., investing is based on the ability to help scale the venture. It requires a true partnership from scale-up phase ultimately to IPO. Part of the investment is allocated to intensive support on key success factors, such as vision and strategy development, commercial excellence, as well as founder-to-CEO transition, MT alignment, and organizational development A board is set up that has scale-up expertise, is focused on accelerated growth and is able to provide performance coaching to the MT.
This requires an operating partner: a role ScaleUpNation is starting to provide to selected VC and accelerator funds. The role of an operating partner is to add value to the portfolio companies and help them achieve their full potential. We help with due diligence during the investment process. Our primary role as operating partner, however, is to provide hands-on guidance and operational support to the portfolio companies. We work closely with the leadership teams of these companies to identify key areas for improvement, develop strategic plans, and implement best practices in the areas of strategy, sales, and operations.
Menno van Dijk
Background information – Autumn 2023
Meet the ScaleUpNation team
There are 130+ ventures and 250+ board members
in the ScaleUpNation community
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